The R-5M missile the [western designation SS-3 Shyster], the first Soviet missile with a nuclear delivery capacity, was a single-stage, medium-range, liquid propellant, road-transportable, ballistic missile. With a maximum range of 1200 km - sufficient enough to reach strategic targets in Europe - it was also considered to be the first Soviet strategic missile.
The missile R-5M was based on the R-5 missile developed by by S.P. Korolev from the Department of the Research Institute of the Special Design Bureau. (OKB-NII) in the early 50's. This predecessor was a single-stage missile with a separable reentry vehicle. According to Western assessments, the initial guidance system for the SS-3 was radio-inertial, which was retrofitted with an all-inertial system as more reliable components became available. The R-5M missile differed from its predecessor R-5 in that to increase its reliability an auto-stabilizing command structure was installed. With a larger payload (1300 against 1000 kg) and dry weight (4390 against 4030 kg), the launching weight of the R-5M was more than twice that of the R-1 (28,610 against 13,430 kg). The enhanced design and efficiency in combination with an increase of the specific engine thrust from 206 to 219 seconds allowed an increase in the maximum range almost five-fold relative to the R-1. To maintain acceptable target accuracy at this increased range, the R-5 missile used a combined guidance/control system with autonomous inertial control plus lateral radio-correction. In-flight control of the missile was maintained with four aerodynamic fins located on the aft bay, and four jet vanes located on the perimeter of the single combustion chamber of the engine. The accuracy of the R-5 was 1.5 km downrange and 1.25 km cross-range from the aim point, and exceeded substantially the accuracy of the R-1 and R-2 missiles.
On 10 April 1954 the Soviet Government approved the development of the R-5M. The flight tests of the R-5M were conducted at Kapustin Yar from January 1955 through February 1956. The flight test of the R-5M on 02 February 1956 represented the first full scale testing of a nuclear missile, during which a nuclear warhead with a yield of 300 KT was successfully detonated. The R&D flight test program was assessed by Western intelligence to have begun in 1955, with initial operational capability reached in late 1956.
After reaching its IOC the R-5M missile received the index number 8K51 and was introduced into the Strategic Rocket Forces on 02 June1956. Between 1956 and 1957 a total of 48 missiles were deployed, primarily at sites close to the western borders of the Soviet Union. A minimum operational SS-3 field site required only a large presurveyed clearing with soil stabilization or possibly a poured or prefabricated concrete apron. The SS-3 is launched from the vertical position. Reaction time is approximately five hours from the normal readiness condition. The allowable hold time in the most ready prelaunch condition (reaction time equal 15 min) is about one hour. In 1959 they were put on alert for the first time, and it remained in service until 1967. No further deployment was carried out due to the development of the more effective R-12 missile that subsequently replaced the R-5M Missile.